You are currently browsing the daily archive for September 2, 2015.

Yesterday’s post summarised the events and main people involved in the French train attack on August 21, 2015.

More details, people and controversy emerged in the days that followed this horrifying incident.

(Incidentally, I have added Godreports — the main source for yesterday’s post — to my News Sites in the left-hand column of Churchmouse Campanologist. Pastor Michael Ashcraft and Mark Ellis feature excellent current affairs profiles of people in the news who are in the Church.)

Legion of Honor medals

An article from the French site Challenges has a great picture of the three Americans with their medals, President François Hollande and the American Ambassador Jane Hartley. The following is a summary.

Briton Chris Norman, 62, also received a medal.

Two more will also be given at a later date. One will go to a 28-year-old Frenchman who works for a bank in Amsterdam and wishes to remain anonymous. The other will go to Franco-American Mark Moogalian, 51, a Sorbonne professor who was recovering in hospital in Lille after Ayoub El Khazzani shot him. Both men tried to neutralise El Khazzani initially before the Americans wrestled him to the ground.

Eric Tanty, an SNCF (French railway) employee, on holiday and on the train, was also recognised for helping the Americans. He will be receiving his medal later in the year as will chief conductor Michel Bruel, whose story is below.

El Khazzani’s father speaks

Mohamed El Khazzani, the attacker’s father, moved the family legally from their native Morocco to Spain in 2007, which would tie in with Ayoub’s residency there until 2014. The El Khazzani family live in Algeciras, where Mohammed works in recycling.

He told The Telegraph that his son is ‘a good boy’ and a hard worker, although he had not spoken to him for over a year.

The father added that his son didn’t discuss politics with him, only football and fishing.

The Telegraph article explains more and has illustrations of how events unfolded on the train.

As for Ayoub, not everyone in Algeciras remembers him in the same way. Whilst some said he was a keen football player and sociable, a neighbour termed him ‘arrogant’.

They said the last they’d heard of him was that he was employed by telecommunications firm Lycamobile in France on a six-month contract along with other Moroccans from Algeciras. Hmm.

Enquiry moves to terrorism

In the days that followed investigators moved towards a possible motive of terrorism.

El Khazzani had two mobile phones — common in terrorist and criminal activity — and, in addition to the weapons, nine cartridges of ammunition. Of the attacker’s excuse that he was just going to rob passengers, Anthony Sadler said that, if that were the case, one would hardly be walking around with so much ammunition.

Police think that El Khazzani purchased the weapons in Belgium and that there could be some connection with Spain, where he lived between 2007 and 2014.

On Tuesday, August 25, authorities discovered that, after the incident, El Khazzani’s Facebook page had been deactivated. They did not do that and nor could he, as he was in custody with no electronic access. Investigation continues.

The attacker’s lawyer criticised the notion that his client could be a terrorist. He described him as being ‘skeletal’, ‘without much education’ and ‘lost’.

Jean-Hugues Anglade on train staff

To appreciate what happened and why actor Jean-Hugues Anglade criticised train staff, looking at a layout of the Thalys carriages will help.

Look at Comfort 1, the first two carriages illustrated. Anglade, his wife and two children were in carriage 11. The attack took place in carriage 12. Also note the compartment in Anglade’s car behind the luggage area which seats four people. This is where the train staff locked themselves in.

Anglade was able to release the emergency alarm — the hammer behind the glass — and cut himself in the process. His hand is currently bandaged up. He was, rightly, dismayed at the lack of help from train staff.

He met with SNCF management on Sunday, August 23. The management assured him they would take his complaint into account during their internal enquiry of the incident.

On Monday, Anglade qualified his earlier statements by saying he did not intend to pass judgement on Thalys or SNCF staff on board the train. He said that the chief conductor, whose story is next, and another Thalys employee displayed ‘heroic’ conduct.

A Thalys conductor speaks

Another Challenges article tells us about the interview a Thalys ticket conductor gave to France Info that Sunday.

Michel Bruet, 54, one of the two senior conductors on the train said that the employees locking themselves in the compartment in Anglade’s carriage were not Thalys employees but bar staff who work for another company. Their remit was nothing more than serving beverages.

It would be hard to tell who works for Thalys as passengers will perceive any uniformed member of staff as a train company employee.

Bruet says he came face-to-face with the attacker who pushed him to the ground and pointed a gun at him before rushing into carriage 12.

Bruet says he rushed to release the emergency alarm and alert the driver. He says he offered Anglade help and was walking between the two carriages after the Americans subdued the attacker.

Then the question arose about who checked El Khazzani’s ticket. At Bruxelles-Midi, where he notionally boarded the train, conductors check everyone’s ticket before they are allowed on.

Bruet replied that El Khazzani could have got on at Anvers, where no check is made. He added that even if the attacker got on in Brussels, he could have boarded ‘behind their backs’:

We’re not infallible.

Michel Bruet will be receiving his Legion of Honor medal later this year.

Another passenger, Laurent Duquesne, gives his account

Laurent Duquesne works in Anvers and returns home to Paris at the weekend.

He was in Anglade’s carriage, no. 11.

He gave a detailed account of events to the French edition of Huffington Post. A summary with excerpts follows.

The first thing we saw with great surprise were Thalys service personnel running through our carriage because we didn’t know what was going on. I saw them take refuge in the space between the engine and the baggage area.

He added that this space — a compartment — has a door which only train personnel can unlock.

He corroborates Anglade’s account of accessing the emergency alarm hammer:

Jean-Hugues Anglade was in the aisle by the door to the carriage with the hammer in his hand.

Duquesne said the passengers, clearly alarmed, moved to the opposite end of the carriage to distance themselves from the attacker.

He added:

I want to make it clear that there were announcements from train personnel on the Thalys but the communication was incomprehensible and of very poor quality.

A short time later, a woman — Mrs Moogalian — entered the carriage, said her husband (Mark) had been shot and asked if there was there a doctor who could help.

Duquesne had received first aid training at work. He is not a doctor but felt he had enough knowledge to help.

By then, the Americans had El Khazzani on the floor and tied up. Also:

When I entered carriage 12, I saw the American soldier who was giving first aid to Mark; I also noticed the train conductor who was busy communicating with the driver and SNCF authorities. He was really overwhelmed. He said the people he was talking to said if the train stopped they’d be late for arrival in Paris. He also said that he hadn’t communicated much on the matter because he wanted to avoid general panic, and I replied, ‘Very well’.  

Duquesne says the conductor gave him and Spencer Stone a first aid kit, however, the contents were clearly unsatisfactory for dealing with bullet wounds.

Duquesne helped Stone get Moogalian in a position where he could lie still. Mrs Moogalian helped make a bandage by cutting her husband’s shirt sleeve:

She couldn’t understand why the train wasn’t stopping, why there was no professional emergency aid and was very worried for her husband.

During this time, the train moved on, although at a slower speed. He stated that it was better that it continued rather than stop in the middle of nowhere which would have made it difficult for emergency services to access and for passengers to evacuate.

By the time the train reached Arras, Spencer Stone had been able to stabilise Mark Moogalian’s bleeding and that he was responding well.

Duquesne then answered Mrs Moogalian’s questions about what would happen next and where her husband would be going to hospital.

When the train reached Arras, police, emergency services and firefighters boarded in that order. Duquesne introduced Mrs Moogalian to one of the firemen, who took care of her, their baggage and their Yorkshire terrier.

Duquesne then returned to his carriage to collect his belongings. Passengers were taken to a nearby gymnasium, where they received food and refreshment. Those who were not in hospital were able to take another Thalys to Paris that evening. Unfortunately, a fire at a train station in Paris meant passengers needed to make the final leg of their journey by taxi.

He told the Huffington Post:

I didn’t do much but since this incident I’m glad to have helped and it also helped me get over the worst of it.

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